On 24th Anniversary of First Falun Gong Practitioner Death in Custody and Cover-up, Deadly Brutality Continues
The first Falun Gong practitioner to die during the persecution of Falun Gong was Ms. Chen Ying, a 17-year-old girl who was arrested for appealing in Beijing for the right to practice Falun Gong and died attempting to flee police custody on August 16, 1999.
Twenty four years later, tragic cases of Falun Gong practitioners killed for their faith by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continue to surface. Meanwhile, Chinese authorities continue to evade responsibility by falsely labeling these deaths as suicide or the result of health issues.
Tragic Death of a 17-Year-Old Girl
Days after Chen’s school in Jiamusi City, Heilongjiang Province, honored her with a model student award, the tenth-grader made the long journey of nearly 1,000 miles to Beijing on July 22, 1999 to appeal for her right to freely practice Falun Gong. She was among the first Falun Gong practitioners to appeal following the mass arrests of adherents two days prior on July 20, 1999.
On July 29, a week after Chen went to the State Council Appeal Office, Beijing police arbitrarily detained the 17-year-old girl. The police held Chen Ying in a Beijing police station until a commissioner from the Jiamusi City Police Station came to escort her back to her hometown to place her in detention. On the Qinhuangdao-bound train from Beijing on August 16, the police assaulted and threatened Chen as she was handcuffed to a baggage rack.
After hours of harassment, Chen attempted to flee custody and jumped from the train’s bathroom window. She began to flee on foot but fell unconscious from the injuries she sustained from the jump. While Chen was in a coma, police took her to Fengrun Hospital in Hebei Province, where they made the decision to take her off life support without family consent.
Chen died that evening, on August 16, 1999, and became the first Falun Gong practitioner to lose their life in what has now been a 24-year-long persecution that has caused the deaths of many more.
False Reporting by Authorities and State-Run Media
Three days after Ying’s death, China Central Television (CCTV) falsely reported that Chen Ying, “who had been absent-minded and had tried to commit suicide many times, died after jumping from a train when her family was distracted.” This gross manipulation of events and mischaracterization of Falun Gong practitioners would become the norm in Falun Gong death cases; for the past 24 years, many Falun Gong deaths in custody have been reported as suicide or the result of health issues to deflect any responsibility of Chinese authorities.
Moreover, in cases such as this one, the deaths have been used to write propaganda stories dehumanizing Falun Gong practitioners by labeling them as mentally ill.
This practice became all the more commonplace after a November 1999 meeting, in which leaders of the 610 Office called 3,000 CCP officials to the Great Hall of the People and announced the governments government’s new policy on Falun Gong: “defaming their reputations, bankrupting them financially and destroying them physically.”
In many instances, Falun Gong practitioners formerly detained in China have reported prison guards and police officers making comments while torturing them that it does not matter if the practitioner dies because it will be considered a suicide.
Likewise, many cases are also written off as the result of natural causes, such as in the case of Pang Xun, a 30-year-old radio host from Sichuan. Leshan Jiazhou Prison authorities claimed Pang died of hyperthyroidhism, however, video footage of his body clearly showed he was beaten to death, while his family reported that he had no history of serious illness.
5,000 Documented Deaths
In a tragic milestone, the number of deaths documented by Minghui surpassed 5,000 in June 2023. Nearly 24 years after the death of Chen Ying, retired professor An Fuzi died in Jilin Province Women’s Prison on May 22, 2023, following two years of detention. The death of Mrs. An, an ethnic Korean living in China, marks one of the most recently documented cases that brought the total over 5,000.
With the difficulty and risk involved in documenting Falun Gong persecution cases, both for the individual reporting and the victim’s family members who often face repercussions, this number is certainly indicative of a much higher death toll.